The 2012 football season is only a month away, and the Colorado Buffaloes will open it up the right way facing off with their in-state rival, the Colorado State Rams. In order for Colorado to get off on the right foot this year, they will need to beat the Rams for a third straight year. Wins will not be easy to come by for CU, but they should be able to get the win here and start the year off on a good note.
Colorado State finished last year with a 3-9 record and isn't poised for any major improvements come this season. They've ended the Steve Fairchild era and hired Jim McElwain, the former offensive coordinator of the Alabama Crimson Tide. McElwain has no prior head coaching experience and his first coordinating job for a BCS team came most recently in 2008 with Alabama. Although this is McElwain's first job he brings some much needed discipline, leadership, and Colorado State ended up making a great hire. However, McElwain has a long way to go with this team.
Offense: The Rams lose their starting quarterback Pete Thomas, due to a transfer to North Carolina State, and McElwain needs to develop a quarterback for Colorado State for them to have any success. Sophomore Garret Grayson looks like he will be the starter, but he will have to rely on his elite running back Chris Nwoke because the receiving core for CSU isn't a strength with the only strong target being tight end Crockett Gilmore. As far as the offensive line goes, they are a good run blocking unit, but will struggle again with pass blocking. If the offensive line cannot improve their pass blocking, CSU will be sticking to the ground game for the majority of this year. Ultimately, the Rams return 8 starters on offense, but, with limited experience at quarterback and questions surrounding the offensive line, the offense will certainly be a work in progress for McElwain.
Defense: The Rams will be moving to a 3-4 set with their new coordinator, Al Simmons. More importantly, Nordly Capi and Mike Orakpo, two of CSU's best defensive players, were kicked off the team in the spring and their loss will be felt immediately. Colorado State returns Momo Thomas and Shaq Bell, two of their starting corners, and linebackers James Skelton and Shaquil Barrett, leaving these two units with the most experience. The defensive line will be a major struggle and if their run defense is as dismal as last year, CSU is in trouble. Defensively, it looks bleak for the Rams; none of the defensive units return a successful group of starters and the team has to learn a new defense as well.
Outlook: Jim McElwain has his hands full with his new coaching gig to say the least. The program is in better shape today then they were a year ago with McElwain bringing in a new mentality and system. He's got a good blueprint and brought in a promising coaching staff. Additionally, CSU doesn't have a difficult schedule, so they could pick up some upset wins along the way, yet, I wouldn't expect more than a 4 win season for this Colorado State team.